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July 15, 2008

Chimay Ale
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:06 PM * 170 comments

This stuff showed up recently in my local grocery store.

By golly, it’s good. Brewed by the Trappist monks in Belgium. It tastes much like drinking a loaf of bread.

Welcome to the source of the Trappist beers and cheeses of Chimay.

Here, in this heaven of peace and silence where since 1850 Trappist monks have dedicated their life to God, products are made which, in themselves, gladden the heart of man.

Red label, cork with a wire basket, 1 Pint 9.4 fluid ounces (75 centiliters). 7% alcohol. Definitely know you’ve been drinking something with this stuff. Gladden the heart of man? You betcha!

Why no, it is definitely not too early in the day to be drinking beer! It’s summer!

(Official Trauma-and-You note: Beer and power tools (much like beer and off-highway recreational vehicles, beer and firearms, and beer and sub-zero temperatures) do not mix.)

Comments on Chimay Ale:
#1 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:26 PM:

Thanks, Jim; I'll look for it. According to their website, they make two more beers, one 8% and another 9% alcohol. Hoo boy. Sounds a bit strong (for me, YMMV) but we'll see.

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:27 PM:

Leinenkugel* Sunset Wheat is also very good. A hint of orange in it.

--

*The pride of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, since 1867 (presumably with a small time-out for Prohibition).

#3 ::: mazianni ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:31 PM:

There's a liquor store in Chelmsford, MA that carries Chimay (and lots of other unusual and good stuff). Harrington's on Summer Street.

http://www.harringtonwineandliquors.com/

I like to go in and buy beer based on how interesting I find the label. Sometimes it works out. ;-)

#4 ::: Fuzzy ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:32 PM:

I live just down the street from a place with 17 Belgian beers on tap, plus another 50 odd in bottles, so I have to be reminded sometimes that everyone in the country isn't so lucky. Which is a shame -- those Belgians really know their way around some grains and hops.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:33 PM:

BELGIANS AGAIN!!!!!

lol

#6 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:34 PM:

I first drank this in the Netherlands, back in like 1981, I think.

In the last 15 years or so here, it is available everywhere more expensive brews are stocked. Now even the supermarkets have rows of imported ales etc. that cost up to even $19.00 a bottle. A large bottle, yes, but still! I keep wishing supermarkets would go back to stocking, you know, real food ....

Love, C.

#7 ::: Fuzzy ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:36 PM:

An apropos twitter from John Gruber.

And speaking of Leinenkugel, Leine's Red is, here in Chicago, the sort of cheapest-good beer: what you might bring to a cookout if you want to be fancier than MGD, but don't actually want to spring for a really *good* beer.

#8 ::: ditto ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:38 PM:

The blue label Chimay is even better! :)

#9 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Trader Joe's sells Chimay now, which is kind of unfortunate - it was a lot easier not to drink it all the time when you had to go to a specialty store to get some. We even have the special glassware for it - I brought it back from Belgium, via Germany, in my carryon and am still incredibly proud that it made it back intact.

(Tried to go to the monastery too - but, while it is (or was, at least) open for tours, it is not open to women. Oh well.)

#10 ::: Karin ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:41 PM:

I also recommend Maredsous, if you like that style of beer. Excellent stuff. Best if you can find a bar that serves it on tap, of course, but the bottled isn't half bad.

#11 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:51 PM:

And now that Belgian-based InBev has bought Anheuser Busch, there's hope that AB will start brewing beer.

Belgians rule!

Duvel is my favorite, but Maredsous (same brewery) is a veryclose second.

#12 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:53 PM:

I love this stuff. When I'm not drinking it, I use a little bit in making a pot roast too. It is awesome.

#13 ::: sauergeek ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:55 PM:

If you're local to Massachusetts, by all means check out The Wine Society in Tyngsboro, MA for their wonderful selection of Belgian beers. (The one in Nashua isn't as good for beer.)

Unibroue in Quebec makes quite a few Belgian-style beers -- I've yet to be disappointed by any of their offerings. Their beer should be easy to find.

And if you find yourself in the Washington, DC area, make a point of stopping by Bilbo Baggins restaurant and pub in Alexandria to try their extensive (and varying) selection of Belgian beers. The owner knows and loves beer.

#14 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:58 PM:

There's an outfit in Montreal called Unibroue that does Belgian style beers; it's been quite some time since I could drink beer, but I remember Maudite and La Fin du Monde quite fondly.

No idea about your local availability, but I bet the website has a notion.

#15 ::: J.K.Richard ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 12:59 PM:

/Homer Simpson hat
Mmmm Chimay. Ahhhh.

//Homer Simpson hat

It's a shame most places here in the US can't afford to carry the 14-19% trappist ales. Talk about knock your socks off.

I think I've just been inspired to scour Tulsa for trappist ale.

#16 ::: J.K.Richard ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:00 PM:

...and as a note: I'm recalling that 14-19% off of a brewmaster's bible I read a few years ago. Surfing the Chimay website I'm not seeing the higher percentage ales.

#17 ::: Julia Rios ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:04 PM:

Chimay is excellent, yes. You might also enjoy Duvel. I certainly do.

#18 ::: Johan ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:05 PM:

Chimay Bleue/Blue (blue label) is even better. One of the best wide-spread, reasonably cheap beers I've ever had the pleasure to drink.

//JJ

#19 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:05 PM:

"Beer and power tools do not mix" and just because there are people on the planet who go out to cut fire wood in nylon running shorts and flipflops with a joint hanging out of their mouth and Irish coffee in a travel mug, and never get hurt*, well, there are such things as statistical outliers, and the rest of us ought to be sober in all dimensions, well rested, properly dressed, and wait until the cord is stacked to modify our consciousness.


*For values of never which include not yet, and that behavior has been outgrown, mostly .

#20 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:07 PM:

Not bad for waffle-humpers.

Thanks Xopher!! :)

#21 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:11 PM:

Johan, over here Chimay Bleu is sold as Chimay Grand Reserve.

I recommend the big bottle...

#22 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:19 PM:

When it comes to Belgian beers as brewed by monks, I'm a Lambic fan. I prefer the light fruitiness, but then, I like girly drinks. However, a Chimay (red label) occasionally comes home with me, and it thankfully is available here where all fine beers are sold.

You know you're a medievalist when...you choose your beer based on the monastery depicted on the label - Golliardic Society

#23 ::: tikilovegod ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:22 PM:

Another one you'll probably enjoy if you like Chimay is Delirium Tremens. I first had it at The Flying Saucer here in Dallas. It's easy to spot because the bottles are painted white and there are pink elephants on the label. It looks gimmicky but I swear that there is tasty Belgian ale inside.

#24 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:38 PM:

There are people on the planet who go out to cut fire wood in nylon running shorts and flipflops with a joint hanging out of their mouth and Irish coffee in a travel mug...

... and every year I get to meet some of them, ah, professionally.

#25 ::: Chang ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:42 PM:

Yes, it is very good stuff. Very nice on any given day.

Well, now I know what to bring you as a gift at VP. Scalzi gets bacon, coke zero and maple syrup. What to get Bear and the others, though? I shall ask at Readercon.

#26 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:49 PM:

Hey, tikilovegod! You ever up at the Saucer on Mondays? 'Cause that's where I usually am...

#27 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:50 PM:

I prefer the Blue (Grand Réserve) over the Red, but they're all good.

Just picked up a bottle of Delerium Tremens (scroll down.) There are pink elephants on the label.

Belgian beers are amazing things. You can divide the world into two -- Belgium and Everybody Else. They have a roughly equal number of beer styles.

#28 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:51 PM:

Oh my goodness, Delirium Tremens. It's called that for a reason. 10% alc. vol., no?

Anything brewed solely by the purest virgin monks is a good bet. I also enjoy Flemish red ales like Duchesse de Bourgogne and Grand Cru - sour, not hoppy, and dark as red wine.

#29 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:53 PM:

Chimay is delicious. Discovered it (as well as Three Philosophers, which I also recommend) over the last Easter holiday.

Of course, it being summer, my current fave is Tequila on the rocks, with sprite--and then fresh squeezed orange juice (it HAS to be fresh squeezed right from the oranges) on top.

Cheers.

#30 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:54 PM:

I second Jim's nomination. Since Georgia legalised high alcohol beers, Chimay and other Belgian beers have made an appearance down here. They're generally a little too heavy for my wallet, but worth it for really special occasions.

#31 ::: Emily ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:56 PM:

The pride of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, since 1867 (presumably with a small time-out for Prohibition).

To which I say, noobs! I drink their beer anyway, as Yuengling doesn't export anywhere near this far, and wouldn't be any good even if they were silly enough to. Beer tends not to travel well at all, no matter how hard you try.

Mostly I stick with Capital Island and New Glarus beers tho, as they're a bit closer. Or a neighbor's homebrew, which is closest of all. But then, Madison is blessed with an awful lot of breweries...

#32 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 01:58 PM:

"Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy."

If you haven't watched The Beer Hunter with the Real Michael Jackson, by all means do: beer is so much more than just a breakfast food a cheap way for kids to get smashed. It exists in most cultures, in one form or another, and many of the styles we enjoy today came out of necessity (IPA used the preservative properties of hops to keep the stuff good on its was to the Subcontinent, for example). Mmmmm, beer . . .


#33 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:00 PM:

And if you stick to beer you won't get cholera....

#34 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:03 PM:

The labels on Unibroue's bottles would be worth it even if the beer was bad. Since the beer is fantastic, the glorious labels are even better.

I'm also seriously partial to Gulden Draak. It is, however, a 10.5% ABV, and resulted in the only time in my life that I've had to be driven home from a bar by a friend.

Totally worth it.

#35 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Beer. Waffles. Chocolate. Lace. Diamonds. French fries/chips.

I think the Belgian coat of arms must have "Living Well is the Best Revenge" on it.

#36 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:14 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @30:Since Georgia legalised high alcohol beers, Chimay and other Belgian beers have made an appearance down here.
I spent three years in Columbus, Georgia in the late 90's. My second day there some co-workers took me to a watering hole where I made the mistake of wishing for something besides Bud "Do you have any microbrews, something local maybe?". The waitress walks away and comes back after consulting with the barkeep "Yes, we have Coors and Miller". Let me tell you, between that and sweet tea, it was three long thirsty years.

#37 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:16 PM:

Ernie is fond of Chimay. Last year, I bought him a bottle and stuck it in the fridge, because I knew he was having an extremely crappy day at work. When he got home, it was nice and cold. I handed it to him when he walked into the kitchen.

#38 ::: Kelley Shimmin ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:21 PM:

My long-favorite monk-brewed beer is Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel (red label). I shall be sure to try Chimay for it will likely be similar.

#39 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:34 PM:

Kelley: Franziskaner Dunkel is a very different beer from Chimay.

They're both delicious, mind, but I would never describe them as "similar."

#40 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:36 PM:

Places that sell Chimay will tend to sell Kwak, I suspect. Well worth a try and not just for the name! One of my favourites.

If you can get your hands on some of the Trappist fruit beers (cherry is a personal favourite) I can highly recommend them as a wonderful drink on a summer afternoon.

#41 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:42 PM:

@tikilovegod #23:

Another one you'll probably enjoy if you like Chimay is Delirium Tremens. I first had it at The Flying Saucer here in Dallas. It's easy to spot because the bottles are painted white and there are pink elephants on the label. It looks gimmicky but I swear that there is tasty Belgian ale inside.

and @Tlönista #28:

Oh my goodness, Delirium Tremens. It's called that for a reason. 10% alc. vol., no?

Whoa! There's a bar, within stumbling walking distance of my house that has that on tap! I was just there for the first time ever on Saturday evening, and I remember the tap with the elephants on it. Now I have to go try it sometime.

@Cat Meadors #9:

Trader Joe's sells Chimay now, which is kind of unfortunate - it was a lot easier not to drink it all the time when you had to go to a specialty store to get some. We even have the special glassware for it - I brought it back from Belgium, via Germany, in my carryon and am still incredibly proud that it made it back intact.

Pictures? Links? Special Glassware intrigues me, though the only real "special" glassware I have are two of the whiskey glasses that Deckard drinks from in Blade Runner. I do have a set of pint glasses and Pilsner glasses, too. (Thanks to Wikipedia for shape derivation.) The pint glasses get far more use for non-beer beverages than they do for beer, and I don't recall the last time I used the Pilsner glasses. More's the pity.

#42 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:42 PM:

Sauergeek @13, unfortunately, there's just no way I can walk into a place called "Bilbo Baggins", short of being chased by a bear or some similar emergency. Luckily, Rustico on Slaters also has a good selection of Belgian beers, and is even closer to DC. (Ok, by about a mile, but it STILL COUNTS.) It's also where we found Allagash, which made us say, "wow, now that tastes like Belgium, right there" - turns out it's actually brewed in Maine. But is very, very tasty nonetheless.

#43 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:45 PM:

I prefer the regular "red" Chimay to the blue, which I find to be a bit over the top -- just too intense for my taste. And I much prefer the quart bottles to the pints! I keep a pair of pliers in a kitchen cupboard, with the corkscrew, just for opening Chimays.

The Unibroue beers are terrific (except for the light one, Chambly, which is a bit pointless).

The labels are great. I especially like the label for Maudite (which means "damned"). It shows some poor guys paddling a canoe -- that's my idea of hell, too. I'm sure it is some religious or literary allusion or some such, but I prefer the idea that damnation is being stuck in a canoe.

http://www.unibroue.com/our_beers_eng.html

#44 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 02:59 PM:

If you want a wide variety of Belgian beers in a DC-area restaurant, I recommend Mannequin Pis in Olney, MD. The chef has moved on to Philadelphia, but the beers and food are fine. Unfortunately, the more convenient Belga Café (near the Eastern Market) seems to be not nearly as good for food.

#45 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:06 PM:

(Sorry for the double post, we must have crossposted)

cajunfj40 @ 41 - It's a heavy goblet (except ours is decorated with gold and says "Chimay"). Some other Belgian beers use tulips. Sure, a pint glass works, but you don't feel half as fancy.

#46 ::: JDC ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:09 PM:

Emily @ 31: Since I now live almost 4,000 miles from Madison, I can no longer get the New Glarus beers. Please do me a favour and on a nice hot day have a Spotted Cow (ideally at the Terrace but what have you). Or maybe a Crop Circle Wheat at the Great Dane? And does anyone remember Eau Claire All Malt? That was good.

Speaking of Madison microbrews, becoming a shareholder of Capital brewery is a great deal. No profits or anything but the annual shareholder meeting is a blast.

#47 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:13 PM:

When I was a starving student at Vrije Universiteit Brussel '78-79, only when we were flush, would we have some Chimay. Wonderful beer. Never liked Stella all that much.

But these days, in Seattle, we have Mac N Jack's African Amber and I am way content. Best US brew hands down.

#48 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Karin @ 10, I was just going to comment that IMO Maredsous is superior to Chimay (not that Chimay is bad!). Maredsous 10 on draft is truly like a fine wine.

I love Belgian beers; they have such interesting complex flavors.

#49 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:23 PM:

Also, if you are in the Triangle area of NC, I recommend Tyler's Taproom (any of the three) for a lovely selection of Belgian and other fine brews on draft. Designate a driver; this area isn't very walkable.

And if they have it, get the pear salad and the Unibroue Ephemere. That's my favorite summertime combination.

#50 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:37 PM:

I've been drinking Chimay (Red, Tripel and Blue) for years. Congratulations on finding one one of the best imports around.

#51 ::: Jason Aronowitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:39 PM:

Finally, a topic appears on Making Light about which I am well informed, and what happens? Every useful bit of information I know appears in the thread before I check in! Here's a minor contribution: My favorite Unibroue beer is Trois Pistoles. It's very rich and high in alcohol. Unibroue advises, "Drink less, drink better." Good advice.

#52 ::: Mike Booth ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:39 PM:

Someone's already recommended Allagash, from Maine. Very good stuff.

The folks at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY do a very nice selection of Belgian-inspired beers.

I just tried Long Trail's Belgian White, and that was quite nice.

If you're in the West try New Belgium Brewing Company, out of Fort Collins, CO. Their Trippel was particularly compelling.

The place to go in the Boston area is the Public House on Washington Square in Brookline. They've got all sorts of beer on tap and in bottles, from everywhere. It was there that I discovered my current favorite beer: Aventinus Eisbock, from Bavaria. It's like flavor atop flavor. It's also 12% alcohol, which may help explain why I like it so much: It is hard to drink it slowly enough to avoid staggering around.

#53 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:49 PM:

Jason @ #51, "Every useful bit of information I know appears in the thread before I check in!"

Grins. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and all that. How do you know what others might find useful?

If I hadn't quit drinking six or seven years ago I'd be taking notes, although in Honolulu we're limited in our selections. Primo has been brought back to life, though.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:50 PM:

Lance Weber #36: As we say here in the 'metro area' -- outside of Atlanta, it's all Alabama*. There's a decent selection of beers at my local liquor store. I do mean decent -- both imports and microbrews as well as mass market high-quality beers like Sam Adams and Anchor Steam.


*An exception may be made for Athens. Terrapin is good stuff.

#55 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:52 PM:

It's been a long time since I've had Chimay, mostly I've been subsisting on Lambic and MacTarnahan's Russian Imperial Stout for variety. The last time I opened a bottle of Lambic Raspberry was a week or so ago, when I barbecued a couple of Beer-Butt Chickens, one with the Lambic and one with the Stout. Oh, nom, Nom, NOM! Finished the last of the chicken for dinner last night. It was just as moist as the day I cooked it.

Of course, while the chickens were cooking, I had a half bottle of Lambic and a half bottle of Stout to dispose of. Good thing it takes an hour and a half to cook the chickens; I was coordinated enough to carve one of them for dinner by then.

#56 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Sylvia #40: It's also worth drinking for the glass and test-tube rack (images). I went to a bar here that made you put down a £10 deposit.

#57 ::: FrancisT ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 03:59 PM:

My favorite trappiste is Rochefort. There is the lower strength Rochefort 8° which is about 10% ABV and the really yummily dangerous Rochefort 10 which clocks in at a whisker under 12% ABV.

Rochefort 10 is the only 10%+ beer that I have drunk which isn't either disgustingly sweet (there's a Belgian beer called Bush which is 12% and vile) or which smacks you around the head with the alcoholic fumes.

I also think well of Orval but my wife hates the smell of it so YMMV

If you want a Belgian beer you can enjoy over a longer period, and especially one that is great for summer evenings then I recommend a "Witbier" such as Hoegaarden or Brugs (I'm drinking a Hoegaarden as I type this)

I see people have mentioned the Lambics and the Cherry beers I can endorse those comments. And talking of Fruit there is a beer called Verboeden Frucht (sp?) with a Rubens picture of Adam & Eve slightly modified on the label. Its not too far removed from the Chimay taste and the label makes if a good beer to bring to parties

#58 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 04:04 PM:

I found Chimay to be a very efficient gateway drink, which set me off down the path of geographical tasting. It's possible to leave Belgium while doing that, it just takes a while.

A good book is Man Walks into a Pub, which talks about things like the local brew/consolidation/micro brew/local brew cycle, and the earliest use of nudity to advertise beer. Can't vouch for the accuracy, though, as it also mentions the use of leather trousers in measuring beer quality.

#59 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 04:26 PM:

J K Richard @16 ...I'm recalling that 14-19% off of a brewmaster's bible I read a few years ago.

Not entirely by coincidence I was in the Belgian Cafe Ramsgate on Saturday Night and the strongest I recall from the list was 12%. As a rule of thumb, the stongest beers tend to be as strong as strong wines (I have a hazy recollection that this is because there aren't any common strains of yeasts that can survive higher concentrations). So I'd be surprised to see beers regularily coming at more than 14%.

(I decided to quickly google before posting and found that wikipedia says that strengths higher than 10% seem to come from the use of champagne yeasts and freeze distillation, which sort of agrees with me)

#60 ::: Lyli ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 04:46 PM:

This is a bit of trivia, but I think that the label on La Maudite by Unibroue (the guy paddling in a canoe) is a wink to a local legend "La Chasse-Galerie" which is basically about the devil tempting loggers in the middle of the winter with an offer to take them back to their wives via flying canoe. The catch, of course, being that if any of them curse, they're all damned for eternity and will never be seen again. That's the gist of it anyway.

#61 ::: Bill Simmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 05:00 PM:

A friend of mine used to own a beer and wine store here in Burlington, Vermont, and upon introducing me to Chimay (now one of my most favorite beers), he told me some interesting things about the brewing process -- things that I have never confirmed, so take this with an appropriately sized grain of internet salt:

Chimay, my friend told me, is brewed in an open-vat process (against health codes here in the states) in a cellar filled with spiders. The spiders (which, my friend assured me, were sacred to the monks in question) apparently help to reduce the fruit fly proliferation in the open, fermenting vats of ale. As a result, according to my beer-expert friend, a sizable portion of that sediment at the bottom of each bottle of Chimay (the stuff you're not supposed to drink), is spider bits.

That's what he said, anyway, and it has made for awesome dinner party conversation so please don't spoil my fun by fact-checking, internet. :)

#62 ::: Pellegrina ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 05:12 PM:

[delurk @61, because opportunities for this anecdote don't arise often enough] On a similar note, a friend of my mother, an engineer from Bolton who designs automated systems for the food sorting and packing industry, asserted at his son's wedding breakfast that cranberries grow in bogs much frequented by deer (or possibly elk or moose, it's been a few years), and the harvesting machinery picks up a great deal of extraneous material, but that due to size and weight similarity it was not possible to design a machine that was *entirely* accurate in distinguishing between cranberries and the droppings of whichever large mammal it was.

I have chosen to conveniently forget this whenever necessary.

#63 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 05:23 PM:

#62
My understanding is that the cranberries are expected to bounce down wooden steps, to prove they're appropriately ripe. I doubt that the extraneous stuff bounces nearly as well.

#64 ::: Ab_Normal ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 05:48 PM:

(cranky celiac delurking) Why did I read this thread? Why??? (sobs)

I'll have to drown my sorrows with a nice gluten-free Dragon's Gold from Bard's Tale Beer.

#65 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 05:49 PM:

Besides Delirium Tremens, the other great Belgian beer with an ironic name is Mort Subite ("Sudden Death.") Like other lambics, it comes in some fruit-enhanced varieties which should be approached with caution; try the unenhanced version first.

Talk Like A Pirate Day is coming up on September 19th. Skip the rum and lay in a supply of Piraat.

#66 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 06:13 PM:

Chang @ 25, I know that Bear is partial to Irish whiskey.

Also, unless the package store 'round the corner from her has changed its stock, she can get Chimay just about any time. I used to get it there.

#67 ::: John Hawkes-Reed ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 06:15 PM:

I'm trying to recall a Belgian beer that I didn't like, other than the grim Stellar Tortoise (aka Wifebeater), and nothing's springing to mind.

Leffe (both blonde and brown) is jolly nice. Hoegaarden is lovely by the bottle, somewhat better by the larger bottle and startlingly good fun by the tureen that the Belgians will serve it in if you ask nicely.

White beer in general is a fine thing to explore if you're lucky enough to live handy for an open-minded off-licence. When we lived in Highgate, the offy just down the road had an entire wall of German/Belgian/Dutch/Whatever beer. I would generally grab a random armload and was rarely disappointed. As it happened, the pizza place a few doors further on kept an extensive (and indeed expensive) Belgian beer menu. That was a right old laugh.

#68 ::: JerolJ ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 06:42 PM:

Without intending at least to be condescending to my WI brethren, once Leinie was sold to Miller it's only fit for rinsing out a glass for the next Capital or New Glarus. Capital in particular - their German styles are exemplary. There is also a new micro out of River Falls called Rush River which has an unpasteurized IPA that is phenomenal - one of the best IPAs I have ever had.

Here in MN we also have a wealth of micros: the ancient and venerable Schell's, the mighty Summit, new kids on the block like Flat Earth, and the hottest micro in America according to Beer Advocate - Surly Brewing Company. Surly makes hyper-aggressive brews that are available in growlers and 16 oz. cans. Believe me, one can of Surly Furious can keep a man happy for a loooong time.

#69 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 06:51 PM:

Since we're sharing local recs, my favorite NC brewery is Duck Rabbit, who do beautiful dark beers -- their milk stout is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.

Their website says, When we brew, we’re happy and we dance. During fermentation, we sing softly to the yeast.

Dark beer, though, is more of a fall and winter treat for me. Summertime begs for lambics and Belgian ales. This thread is really, really making me want some Chimay.

#70 ::: J.K.Richard ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 07:48 PM:

Neil@ 59 I do recall reading that same bit of info about champagne yeasts being used to produce a higher alcohol yield. I'm going to bang my head against the wall until I figure out where the 14-19% notion came from.

While there's nothing technically preventing you from brewing for an extremely higher yield beer ... (except for blindness caused by an increased chance of methyl alcohol production...)... there is also the 'medicinal taste' that you get from higher concentrations of methyl and ethyl alcohol.

I did find however, that many states are referring to the 6-14% beer laws as High Octane Beer Law.

#71 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 08:01 PM:

If I may shamelessly self-reference here for a moment...

Chimay cheeses are excellent as well. I wrote up a minireview of the Grand Cru once upon a time, along with a few other cheeses; you're welcome to take a gander.

Also, which of Chimay's three beers showed up in your store?

(The other day I had lunch at a delightful Provençale restaurant here in Berkeley where they have several of the outstanding Belgian-style beers by Unibroue on hand. Blanche de Chambly is a fantastic summer beer....)

#72 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 08:31 PM:

#15, J. K. Richard, I seem to remember a nice big liquor store on the corner of 51st and Lewis...Fikes Parkhill, I think. When I lived there, they had a good selection of imported beers including Trappists, with Duvel and Gulden Draak on the shelves. I also got a bottle of Optimator there--12% ale.

I could never get into the high percentage beers, myself. For me, beer is a refresher, and the high oc stuff is far too syrupy sweet.

#73 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 09:33 PM:

I'm not a beer drinker, but some friends and I once enjoyed a bottle of Samichlaus, which we drank from shot glasses.

#74 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 09:42 PM:

JasonB@11: where did you get \that/ idea? InBev has bought a number of other brands that stood high in sales rather than in any of the qualities that make drinking beer worth the hangover; given that they're also expecting to save $1.5e9/yr, I can't see them spending more on materials.

Graydon@14: many Unibroue beers are easy to find in Boston -- hardly surprising considering tastes and proximity. There is also a Belgian restaurant in Montreal that has a number of beers on tap. The mussels were wasted on me, and I was appalled they didn't have carbonade, but the beer and sausages were wonderful.

JDC@46: The Great Dane has been a guaranteed stop ever since I started going to Wiscon. This year they had something called New Peculier....

Mike@52: Brookline? What do they know about beer in Brookline? The Sunset, in Allston, has ~100 drafts (including a half-dozen each cask ales and nitrogen-pumped stouts), all of them offered in sizes ranging from 5oz to yards, and ~300 bottles. Granted, it's got the lighting and decor of a college hangout -- but I've known fans visiting Boston from 3000 miles away to beeline there.

Boston was also the site of one of the first brewpubs in the U.S.; unfortunately the Commonwealth (specializing in Yorkshire styles) was pre-empted by a bigger, less-arcane place much closer to the arena, and closed after ruining its menu. (I'll try anything, but my particular pleasure is English ale -- paradise for me was visiting the Great British Beer Festival on our way to Interaction.)

#75 ::: Ben Morris ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 10:09 PM:

Chimay is wonderful but my favorite Belgian beer is definitely St. Bernardus Abt 12. It's beer nirvana I tell you, beer nirvana.

#76 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 10:27 PM:

I'll second the recommendation for St. Bernardus. I just had it for the first time a month ago, and it was awesome.

Another great Belgian is St. Sebastiaan.

As for the high ABV--Sam Adams Millennium claims 20%.

#77 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 10:43 PM:

Interested in a Chimay glass? Live in the DC area?

I have 2 Chimay glasses (lightly belled but the mouth doesn't go in, stamped, silver? around the lip) a Brigand glass (more curved like a brandy snifter, no metal, stamped with the name), and a Magic Chouffe, La Chouffe glass (the body goes out-in-out like an old oil lantern).

They were my dh's and he doesn't need them anymore. I've put them up on freecycle and had no requests.

#78 ::: Ewan ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 11:01 PM:

@51: my feeling exactly!

Chimay Bleu was the beer which convinced me that drinking beer was worthwhile; I was just finishing graduate school and about to earn more than sustenance-level wages, which was a very good thing!

In the US, the best widely-available stuff I've had comes from Dogfish Head, but Iron Hill (also DE, don't know what drives them to make good beer there) is great and Vermont's Long Trail brewery is pretty decent at a lower price point and level of concentration needed to fully enjoy.

I *believe* that only the Bleu is given a vintage date by Chimay, and the stuff does age well. Just a glorious beer.

#79 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 11:10 PM:

Cat Meadors #9, cajunfj40 #41 'Special glassware' – perhaps these beer glasses? There's even a place called www.belgianbeerglasses.com now, where you can see different types.

Never liked the taste of beers I've tried, tho' I can see the range is larger than I knew. It might be worth trying a few of them, if they're around here. I enjoy cider if I'm after that kind of beverage.

#80 ::: tikilovegod ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 11:18 PM:

Skwid @ 26: There are multiple Flying Saucers in the DFW area--I visit the one in Addison. I don't make it to the Saucer very often these days, but if I'm back there on a Monday in the near future, I'll let you know.

Mike @ 52: I'll second your recommendation for New Belgium beers in general and their Trippel in particular: complex, citrus-y goodness.

#81 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 11:51 PM:

I don't recall having Chimay, but there is a warm place in me for Liefmann's Gouldenband and Framboisembier.

#82 ::: Eric Scharf ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2008, 11:53 PM:

Drink Unibroue -- it'll put hair on your, well, you know.

#83 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 12:06 AM:

Jason, #51, a thread subject of which I not only dislike the taste, but can't have due to meds.

#84 ::: Sandra Cormier (Chumplet) ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 12:23 AM:

You prompted me to google the beer blogs and oh, my there are so many.

Ontario has many great craft breweries, as does Quebec. Unibroue's Maudit is one of my favourites - a beer that improves with age, almost taking on the characteristics of port. It has a flying canoe on the label.

#85 ::: J.K.Richard ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 01:28 AM:

JimR@52 I'll give it a shot. I believe I came across a Chimay blue in a specialty shop in Claremore (off of old 66) a couple of years ago. I'm sure I can find a decent store 'round these parts.

On a side note: I'm curious what will happen now that Anheuser-Busch has been bought out by a Belgian brewing company. Amerika can haz good beer nao?

#86 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 01:50 AM:

JK@85: Tsk tsk! America has oodles of great beer! It's just that (almost) none of it is made by the old-time standard gigantic conglomerates like Anheuser-Busch or Miller.

The real love is in the regional and local brew companies. Here in Northern California, for example, we're blessed with North Coast Brewing Company, one of the best in the country. Their "Old Rasputin" Russian Imperial Stout is just incredible. There's also the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, maker of the utterly delightful Boont Amber. Then there's Pyramid's Berkeley alehouse, Lagunitas, Rogue in Eugene, Oregon... and these are all producers big enough to ship at least regionally. There's also the glorious renaissance in brewpubs and local breweries that has occurred in the US since the 1980s. Remember when "microbrew" in the US meant either Sam Adams or Pete's Wicked Ale? How times do change!

If the big boys start making decent brew, then that's fine, but I have to say I'm not hurting for good alternatives.

#87 ::: Bruce Purcell ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 01:51 AM:

Speaking of wonderbeers-

Anyone have a contender for Herzwesten from 'The Drawing of the Dark'?

Yes, I know Tim Powers made it up. But, one hopes he had a model-?

#88 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 02:41 AM:

God I love Belgian beer. I used to have a really close friend in Gent, and every single time I visited him, I tried a new beer. They're not too good at straight-forward Plsen style beer, but all the fancy, odd-tasting stuff they do great. The other obvious candidates for very tasty Belgian beers are Leffe and Hoegaarden, with the latter especially the holiday specials, if you can get those at all.

As for Franziskaner, that's nowhere near monk-brewed anymore. It's one of the really big Weizenbier brands in Germany. It's good, but if I want one of the big brand Weizenbiers, I tend to go for Paulaner. Mind you, there isn't that much difference between those. Where it's really at, though, are the small, local brewers. Should you ever find yourself in Saarbrücken, my home town--fat chance of that, I know--, look for the Stiefel bar next to the St. Johanner Markt. The bar is built around an old brewery (granted, only reopened recently), and they make absolutely the best Weizenbier I've ever had. It's strictly seasonal with them, though, so if you can arrange to be there in March, for instance, try their Märzenbier.

At any rate, comparing Weizenbier and the sweet, heady Belgian stuff doesn't really make much sense, as others have pointed out. It's kind of like saying, if you like roast beef you should also try cake. They're both food, but that's about it.

All beer is great, though.

/Daniel, who is about to walk past St. James's Gate Brewery on his way to work. Mmmmh Guinness. *drool loudly*

#89 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 03:27 AM:

"Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy."

Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man ?

#90 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 03:29 AM:

Coming in late - I second ctate's recommendation of North Coast Brewing Company. And not because my boss's brother is their brewmaster. Really. That's just a bonus, I get glasses and t-shirts when she comes back from visiting him.

The PranQster and Brother Thelonius are both rather good Belgian style brews.

If anyone is ever up here in my vicinity, the seasonal barley wine Silver Gulch (in Fox, outside of Fairbanks) is usually pretty good, and Moose's Tooth in Anchorage makes beer that is just plain good.

And now I've sent myself a note to look for Chimay tomorrow when I'm at the good liquor store. Thanks for the recommendation.

#91 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 05:33 AM:

Because someone mentioned Quebec beer, does anyone have any experience with a beer called Fin du Monde? I tried it before I had learned to like beer, and it was supposed to be very good.

#92 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 05:57 AM:

The PranQster and Brother Thelonius are both rather good Belgian style brews.

Brother Thelonius? That would be Thelonius the Monk, then? Hmm.

And if you stick to beer you won't get cholera

Jiiim, you're ruining the atmosphere, man.

#93 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 07:20 AM:

"In Heavent here's no beer, which is why we drink it here".

--Old Dutch saying

Meanwhile, for lovers of stronger beers who are planning a trip to Europe this year, may I recommend the Dutch bokbier festival held every october (24-6th) in Amsterdam? Almost every brewer in the Netherlands and a fair few from elsewhere will be present and showing off their bocks: darker, stronger winter beers.

Surprisingly, quite a few sf fans make it over from the UK each year as well.

#94 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 08:20 AM:

ajay @ 92: You really know how to jazz up a conversation. It's music to my ears, as a person of little experience with beer. I have been taking notes though, as my partner likes beer.

#95 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 09:35 AM:

sara_k @77 I use Chimay glasses for individual blooming teas - the bell shape is just right and the logo is soon forgotten once the tea starts opening up.

Tlönista @56 We have a single tube-and-rack glass, left over from a promotion where it came free with a six-pack. Really must sort out at least one more as there's no way one person could have a Kwak in this household without sharing!


#96 ::: Juri Pakaste ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 10:08 AM:

I heartily recommend Westvleteren beers if you can get your hands on them. It's another of the seven trappist breweries. The problem is their brews are very difficult to come by - it's officially only sold in the brewery and a cafe next door, everything else is grey market. I used to frequent a bar that at some point somehow managed to get some of it, but I suspect I won't be so lucky again.

#97 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 10:57 AM:

My husband's a homebrewer, and likes Chimay. I've probably tasted it, though I can't recall. One of the things I've learned since he started brewing was how to accurately describe the beer I actually like, which I also didn't know until he expanded my palate through his exploration of microbrews in his own education of brewing styles. (For the record, I tend to like dark and malty. Dogfish Head's Indian Brown is a fave.)

I'm likely going to attend a Homebrewing Con before I attend a SF one. It's San Francisco next year, and we're planning on going.

If anyone's interested in leaerning more about homebrewing, my husband helps mod HBT, the forum where he learned a great deal of what he knows on the subject.

#98 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 11:00 AM:

Another Belgian-style US beer that I like, and hasn't been mentioned, is Weyerbacher's Quad Ale.

And if any of you have access to Grimbergen Dubbel, drink one for me. I spent a happy weekend in Brugge, and that's what I drank.

#99 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 11:45 AM:

Ahh...the cause of and solution to all life's problems. Let me chime in agreement about all the beers produced by Ommegang, with a particular recommendation for their Rare Vos (which cellars very well). As relocation to Germany looms into view, is it completely perverse that one of the things I will truly miss is US microbrewed beer? Apart from altbier, I may have to start brewing my own dry-hopped ale to get my fix. Helles is great on a hot summer day, but it's definitely not the be-all and the end-all.

#100 ::: Tim in Albion ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 11:51 AM:

I remember my first Chimay! For quite some time, it was widely regarded as the Best Beer in the World (though of course such a claim was also hotly contested). Belgian beers in general used to be hard to find in America, but now they are The Next Big Thing. Maybe Waterzooi will start appearing on restaurant menus... oh, happy day!

SamChevre @98, a glass of Grimbergen Tripel that I had with a bowl of Waterzooi in a little restaurant in Brugge stands out clearly in my mind. Not the best food-drink pairing ever, but they certainly took the chill out of me and lightened the perpetually grey sky.

#101 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 12:46 PM:

Tlönista @91 --

La Fin Du Monde is another Unibroue product; it was my favourite of theirs when I didn't know I shouldn't drink beer. (I do ever so much better on a diet without gluten.)

The Wellington Brewery does some good stuff as well; I was especially fond of Iron Duke.

#102 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 01:18 PM:

Lots of (potentially) yummy beers to track down now, thanks all!

A question though, one that likely has more answers than there are answerers: How do these strong or other interesting beers taste as they warm up over a long sipping session, or if they are served without being chilled beforehand? I've a relatively low alcohol tolerance, so if I "have to" finish the beer before it gets warm I hit my limit well before I want to stop drinking. Knowing a beer will still taste good later would enable putting it down and grabbing the water glass for a while instead, thus prolonging the fun.

Oh, and I forgot my own favorite piece of special "glassware": my drinking horn for Ren Fest attendance. Drinking a good beer from it is difficult if I want the beer to last a while - it cannot be put down when it still contains liquid if you want to keep that liquid from spilling.

#103 ::: Per Chr. J. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 01:54 PM:

cajunfj40 @ 102:

For a lot of the beers mentioned here it is worse for the taste to serve them too cold than too warm, so I wouldn't worry about the brew losing any appeal by staying in the glass for a while. A rather widespread consensus is the darker the brew, the less you have to/should chill it.

#104 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 01:55 PM:

For the gluten-intolerant, look for Redbridge. Yes, it's brewed by A-B, but it's the best of the gluten-free beers I've tried and is more readily available than most.

tikilovegod@#80, Addison is where my plate hangs, although I've also visited the FW and Austin locations.

I'll second ctate's reccy in #86 for North Coast's Old Rasputin...it's probably my favorite beer I hadn't tried before this year. There's some in my fridge right now, actually. Really, I can vouch for most of the recommendations in that post...excellent breweries really do seem to abound in that region. Rogue, in particular, is a favorite of mine.

#105 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 02:06 PM:

JKR @85: Anheuser-Busch have been bought by InBev. IIRC these are the same folks who tried to move the brewing of Hoegaarden witbier away from Hoegaarden so they could sell off the brewery (until they discovered their big beer factories couldn't get it right). That's not a good omen ...

#106 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 02:09 PM:

Let me just add that Cellis Wit is/was surprisingly good and very close indeed to a US equivalent of Hoegaarden -- as it used to be, before InBev got their grubby mitts on it. (Not surprising if you follow the brewery family tree ...)

#107 ::: Ben Morris ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 02:10 PM:

cajunfj40@102: The recommended temperature for many of the stronger Belgian beers is 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit / 10 to 13 degrees Celsius. The warmer temps let their flavors through more (cold tends to muffle flavor). If I get one straight from the fridge I'll typically take a small sip or two initially and then wait for it to warm up, occasionally taking another small sip but not really drinking very much of it until it reaches a more preferred temperature (its neat to observe the flavor change as the temp rises).

#108 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 02:51 PM:

At the turn of the 19th century, Belgium had a brewery for about every 2000 people. The population has gone up, and the number of breweries has gone down, and now they are at about 1/80,000. For comparison, the U.S. is 1/210,000. (Spain is 1/1,8000,000 - shudder)


Niel @ 59 - Wikipedia. Well. Champagne yeast is fairly alcohol tolerant, and used to be used by homebrewers when brewing high gravity beers, because there were very few alcohol tolerant brewing yeasts available. That's changed in the last, oh, 20 years.
The yeast used to make Chimay is quite alcohol tolerant, and can be cultured fairly easily from the sediment in the bottle. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the yeast isn't usable for anything other than Trappist style beers, as it throws off strong phenolic tastes.
Sierra Nevada's yeast is also very alcohol tolerant, and has a very neutral flavor profile. It's also very stable, and vigorous, and so it tends to take over a brewery. Before it was at SN, it was the yeast used to make the original Ballantine India Pale Ale.

#109 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 04:04 PM:

Steve @ 108:
My brewing friends warn me that several Belgian breweries toss in common yeast as sediment so suckers like us will cultivate it, hoping to steal their secrets.

#110 ::: Jason Aronowitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 05:52 PM:

#92 - Round midnight, I'll be having a Trois Pistoles. Straight, no chaser.

#102 - Slightly cooler than US room temperature is ideal. Too warm, and you may get too much foam. Too cold, and some of the flavors will be subdued*.

*This is why there is no such thing as "too cold" for a Bud**.

**If the Bud is too cold to be poured, this can be considered a further improvement.

#111 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 06:05 PM:

If the Bud is too cold to be poured, this can be considered a further improvement.

I think the Jasons are unanimous here: Budweiser is crap. It's too bad that the people who started the company decided to associate their product with Ceske Budovice, the same town that boasts Czechvar (formerly Budvar, but Budweiser brought their money to bear and disallowed them their own name), which is a far superior Pilsner.

#112 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 06:27 PM:

#110

Yes, I suspect that Bud is carefully formulated for straight-from-the-fridge drinking: good if you just want cold, wet, and vaguely beer-like. (I've heard the other drink of that persuasion described as 'Colorado kool-aid'.)

#113 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 08:41 PM:

Though I've been dwelling on the west coast beers so far, I just remembered that I'm quite fond of a brewer in that other Portland, the one in Maine: Allagash, who make a variety of Belgian-style beers. I've had the White a number of times; it's yummy yummy. It's confirmed as a fine choice of beer to go with lobster rolls.

#114 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 09:26 PM:

Jasons, I can't get Bud down no matter how cold it is. It's like they took all the flavors out except that icky bitter one, or at least that's how my taste buds react to it. Usually I deal with the icky bitter flavor as a balancing note to other flavors, but on its own, it triggers the "spit it out" reflex. I wish I didn't have such a strong negative reaction to Bud; it makes me seem more beer-snobbish than necessary.

I've mentioned it before, but I thought I disliked all beer until I tried a stout. I had to work my way down from stout to porter to brown ale and have finally gotten to wheat beer and Belgians. Still generally can't do lagers unless they're particularly well-balanced. This is the opposite direction from most people, I gather.

#115 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 09:48 PM:

Caroline@114: I've mentioned it before, but I thought I disliked all beer until I tried a stout. I had to work my way down from stout to porter to brown ale and have finally gotten to wheat beer and Belgians. Still generally can't do lagers unless they're particularly well-balanced. This is the opposite direction from most people, I gather.

In that case, I'm not most people, either. I don't much care for anything pale and/or hoppy, and love the dark stuff.

#116 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 10:19 PM:

Caroline@114: I've mentioned it before, but I thought I disliked all beer until I tried a stout.

That's how I corrupted my wife. I said, "Have a Guinness--it's like coffee." She's a coffee demon, so she sucked it up.

Then I plied her with dark beers, increasingly light beers, until she declared her beer love.

She still doesn't like the exceedingly hoppy beers, but I can bring home most beers and she'll partake.

#117 ::: insect_hooves ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 10:58 PM:

I dunno. Chimay is pretty common (all the "whole" yuppie franchises around here carry it). My personal Favorite Beer of All Time is Aventinus.

#118 ::: Ben Morris ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 11:19 PM:

insect_hooves@117: Chimay is a delicious beer. I don't see how it being easily obtainable in any way detracts from that, in fact to me that seems to be a good thing. Saying otherwise seems to be liking a beer not for for some desire to have things that are secret and hard to get, as if those qualities themselves and not the taste make a beer good.

#119 ::: insect_hooves ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 11:23 PM:

I don't mean common beers are bad -- hell, I'll hoist a Bud or 12 -- just that among the contenders for the perfect beer, I find the Chimays to be a resounding "Meh".

#120 ::: Ben Morris ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2008, 11:23 PM:

Whoops, didn't preview throughly enough in comment 118. My last sentence should read:

Saying otherwise seems to be liking a beer for some desire to have things that are secret and hard to get, as if those qualities themselves and not the taste make a beer good.

#121 ::: antukin ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 02:25 AM:

I can take lager if it's the only thing available, but the dark stuff goes down so much easier.

I love Kilkenny, which is a nice Irish cream ale. Very hard to find in Asia, though. I saw it on the menu at an Irish pub here in Manila, and my hopes went up a little, but of course it was out of stock because I'm the only one who'd order that kind of thing. Oh well at least they had decent Guinness.

#122 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 03:14 AM:

Emily @ 31: Beer tends not to travel well at all, no matter how hard you try.

That's my view exactly. All my favorite beer-drinking experiences were with brews made close to where I drank them.

I also started liking dark beers first: Andechs Dopplebock, to be precise. I highly recommend that anyone in the Munich area take the train down to the monastery and quaff a liter or two. Beware the American version--it's "licensed" and thoroughly mediocre.

Here in SF, my favorite beer is Emperor Norton Lager (note: not light at all), made in a bar where Jack Dempsey was once a bouncer.

#123 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 07:21 AM:

Here in SF, my favorite beer is...

What does it say about me that I first read SF as "science fiction"? With subsequent brain twistings, trying to figure out how... Never mind.

#124 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 07:28 AM:

...Shoggoth's Old Peculiar.

#125 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 09:20 AM:

I always thought dark->light was the natural progression of beer-liking. (I had a friend who'd only drink dark beers because she didn't like carbonation, but most delicate flowers like myself are pro-malt, anti-hops. Dark beers may LOOK scary, but really, should we be judging beer on the color of its body, rather than the flavor contained within?) I'll still take something warm & malty over bright & hoppy any day, even though my brewer friends hop to the point of insanity. (They've even taking to growing their own, since whatever happened recently that destroyed the hops crops.)

#126 ::: Jason Aronowitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 09:53 AM:

#123 - Debbie, I read that the same way, and started to consider an alternate universe plot wherein Emperor Norton was a brewer.

#127 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 10:11 AM:

For any serious beer (by which I mean "real ale" here in the UK, "microbrewer beer" in the USA - I don't consider mass-produced lagers to be beer) drinkers, you may be interested in "300 Beers to Try Before You Die" by Roger Protz.

For those wanting to know more about the odd Belgian beers they might come across, there's the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) "Good Beer Guide to Belgium".

Regarding order of learning to drink beers, my husband started me off on the honey ales and golden ales, progressing to the stouts and porters over 18 months or so. At beer festivals, I've found that alternating golden and dark (stout, porter, mild) beers is a good way to encourage contrast in flavours.

#128 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 10:40 AM:

Caroline @ 114, I'm like you and Debra Doyle. I thought I hated beer until I tasted Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, and I still prefer the dark beers to the light ones. A default "beer" in my head is a brown ale (let me put in a good word for the City Steam brewpub in Hartford, CT).

And I react the same way to Budweiser as you do -- the only flavor it has is the Icky Bitter Spit It Out flavor, and I say this as someone who's learned to enjoy IPAs.

Given the choice between mass market American lager and water, I usually go for the water, but I've found that very cold Rolling Rock is tolerable for washing down pizza in a way that Budweiser isn't.

#129 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Jason B @ 109 - Yes, some breweries do use a different strain to bottle condition. Not so much for theft prevention, but because the strain they use isn't very alcohol tolerant. At least that's my understanding.
Hefeweizen's in particular seem to be dosed with a different yeast. But I've had friends who did brewery tours, and they came back with bottles of yeast slurry. Professional courtesy, to some extent. There's a long tradition of sharing yeasts between brewers. As a practical matter, before modern microbiological techniques, it was a good way of 'backing up' your yeast, in case your brewery got an infection or aggressive, unwanted, mutation.

#130 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 12:36 PM:

Dark beers may LOOK scary, but really, should we be judging beer on the color of its body, rather than the flavor contained within?

I'll note that, although flavour is foremost, the colour of a beer is part of the experience*. In the same way the contents of a book tend to be most important, but that doesn't stop us enjoying (or not) the construction of the book as an object.

* That's why, like wine, it's served in a glass.

#131 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 01:01 PM:

My local pub does a good job with Guinness, so I tend to drink that there. Friends who don't drink draught stout think it's much heavier than it really is. A pint of Guinness is about 170 calories. More than a 'lite' beer, which would have about 130 to 150. But less than some other light colored beers, like Sam Adams.

:begin joke:
Auggie Busch, Peter Coors, and Arthur Guinness meet at a beer conference, and go to lunch together. When the waitress asks them what they're wanting to drink, Busch of course asks for a Budweiser, and Coors, of course has a Coors. Guinness asks for a Coke.
"Why aren't you having a pint of Guinness," they ask him?
"Well, I didn't want to be the only one having beer with lunch."
:end joke:

#132 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 01:34 PM:

Jason Aronowitz @ 126: Debbie, I read that the same way, and started to consider an alternate universe plot wherein Emperor Norton was a brewer.

They have "Bock Obama" now--that should make a lively novel.

#133 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 02:00 PM:

RIkibeth @ 128, IPAs are interesting. When I taste IPAs, I feel like there is some food that is the perfect balance to that taste, but I can't figure out what it is. I can enjoy them on their own (I've learned to) -- although it's still a challenge, like learning to appreciate good coffee served black -- but I feel like they're looking for a complement.

("My, what a lovely label design.")

#134 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Ok, Easterners, here's a challenge. When last in Connecticut (2003), I decided to have ale with dinner, and got something with "Trout" in the name, like Troutbeck or Brooktrout or some such. I never did catch the name of the brewery; it was a fairly light, mildly fruity concoction, color like pale honey, and very nice--went with the pork chops a treat. My Google-fu has failed me on this, but I'd gotten the notion that it was reasonably local, i.e., within 100 miles of Essex CT. Any clues?

#135 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 02:12 PM:

Carolne, I hadn't really thought about beer-and-food pairings (besides the fact that Burnside Brewing Company's Ten Penny Ale, a copper ale, goes very nicely with cheeseburgers) but I have noted that "bitter" often pairs well with "unctuous," so I'd be inclined to try it with a mild, creamy curry like navrattan korma, or a well-made hummus (Hanne Blank just posted excellent instructions at her blog), or...

...this bears further research.

#136 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 02:20 PM:

joann: My Google-fu suggests that the Trout Brook Brewing Company has changed its name to the Thomas Hooker Brewery. They've got a listing of their beers on the site.

#137 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 02:22 PM:

Oops, I screwed up the link.

http://www.hookerbeer.com/

#138 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 02:37 PM:

Caroline: I like IPAs, so I tend to think they go well with everything, but I think they go particularly well with curries.

#139 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 03:02 PM:

I have a weakness for Bud --

-- er, make that Budvar Dark.

(A blackened lager from the Czech republic folks who brought us the real Budweiser -- it's an appelation controlee in parts of Europe, which really pisses off Anheuser-Busch -- chewier and slightly smoky.)

#140 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Rikibeth #136,#137:

Thanks! I do believe they might be the ones. Sounds like it was probably the Blonde, but might have been the Pale. Unfortunately, they don't seem to admit to distributing in Texas. OTOH, that means I'd ... have to visit New England again. Cheez.

#141 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 03:39 PM:

Clifton@#138, I'll have to try that sometime, as I've often had the same thought as Caroline. Also, you're contradicting Lister, there, and his theory that only Lagers can kill a curry.

Mostly, though, I just try to avoid IPAs. I like to taste hops in my beer, rather than beer in my hops, thanks.

I think about food-beer pairings rather a lot, actually. Like, the best beer for pizza, IMO, is a Hefeweizen. Stouts go well with steaks and sharp cheese. Bocks for burgers, Pale Ale for fish...really, I should probably not go on.

#142 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 03:44 PM:

Skwid, I like the bit of a bite from the bitter, but I do prefer those IPAs which don't go completely insane with hops. There is such a thing as overdoing it.

#143 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 03:47 PM:

joann, I have a sofa bed!

#144 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 04:02 PM:

Rikibeth #143:

Thanks. More likely I'd be piggybacking on one of DH's technical conferences, should they get round to NE again anytime soon. To bring that vaguely back on-topic, they do have a regular evening session called "Beer and Gear," although I'm hanged if I know where they get the beer.

#145 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Rikibeth #128: My position on Budweiser is that the Clydesdales are in those advertisements for a reason closely connected to the product being advertised. Miller and Michelob, I feel, should also use said animals if they were being honest.

#146 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 04:38 PM:

Fragano @ 145: I must politely disagree with you. After all, horse pee tastes much better than Budweiser. Not that I would know about such things, being not much of a beer drinker to begin with.

#147 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 05:17 PM:

Ginger #146: Diabetic Clydesdales, I should add. The ASPCA should be looking into the matter. As a veterinarian -- someone who doesn't eat meat, to quote Lou Grant -- you should be concerned.

#148 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 05:26 PM:

The only beer I've ever found too hoppy--because I'm a huge fan of the hop--was Great Divide Brewing's Hercules Double IPA.

This went beyond bitter, and even beyond floral. I felt like I was chewing on a dandelion. It was ridiculous.

But then the next time I had it it was just fine.

My default (when I was in Minnesota--not so easy here in Oklahoma) was Summit. The IPA first, and the EPA second.

I need to drive north soon.

#149 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 05:37 PM:

Fragano @ 147: Diabetic Clydesdales? Well, that changes everything! Do you know how much volume they can produce? No wonder there's nothing on the market but swill that's unfit for pigs.

Now I really need to stop by the specialty deli on the way home and find a bottle of Chimay.

(In vet school, we drank Carib beer -- but only to generate clean empty bottles for my classmate to fill with his superior brew. Drinking just two bottles of his product put my manly male classmates on the ground. Carib was also safer than the local water, or Giardia soup, as we called it.)

#150 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 05:40 PM:

Fragano @ 145
What's terribly depressing is that budmilloors is technically very challenging. It's not easy to brew something that tasteless, and faults that are undetectable in real beer come through very clearly. Not only that, the brewers have to start with agricultural products that vary quite a bit in their characteristics from year to year and region to region, and still they must produce something that is excruciatingly consistent across time and space.

Such a waste of effort and talent. Not to mention 3800 years of western civilization.

#151 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 05:41 PM:

Skwid @ 141: Mostly, though, I just try to avoid IPAs. I like to taste hops in my beer, rather than beer in my hops, thanks.

I used to feel the same way, but my current favorite beer is Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA. It's got enough floral and spice notes that the bitterness isn't overwhelming.

#152 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 06:27 PM:

FrancisT @ 57

If we're talking Trappise beers, have you come across the West Vlateren 8 or 10? I'll second Juri Pakaste @ 96 very nice. I was visiting colleagues in South Africa, of all places, they asked what I would like, I asked if they had any beer-not-lager and they thought and then said, "oh, we have this bottle left over from Christmas." Turned out to be West Vlateren 8. Once I'd allowed it to warm up to a decent temperature it was gorgeous.

Martin Wisse @ 93
Must see if we can get to that some year.

Ginger @ 146
Dunno about horse pee, but tapir pee tastes horrible - if a male tapir turns his back end towards you, make sure your mouth is firmly shut!

#153 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 07:12 PM:

Ginger #149: Carib is not up to Red Stripe, but I am, naturally biased. My local liquor store is selling Carib shandy these days, I have to note.

Banks, from Guyana, is also a decent brew, and, for some reason is available in parts of Ohio of all places.

#154 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 07:14 PM:

Steve Downey #150: That is true. Year after year, the mass market beers are consistent in their insipidity. Not until coming to the US did I discover that there were people who believed that 'real beer' was stuff that lacked body and was sickly sweet.

#155 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 10:06 PM:

Fragano @ 153: My father will drink Red Stripe, so I know there's something to recommend it. I've seen the Carib Shandy in my own store -- pause while I shudder -- and I have to report that very store was the scene of our success tonight. I was able to find a bottle of Chimay Trippel AND a bottle of Delirium Tremens. We opened both; my partner preferred the Chimay and I preferred the DT.

By the way, any piss-poor beer (or any beer you don't like) is a good candidate for shandy; simply mix the offending beer into lemonade (or even lemon-lime soda) and you have a much improved beverage. The version that Carib is bottling -- well, let's just say that I have no desire to conduct a taste test.

dcb: I'll take your word for it, as I lack your expertise. I've not been close enough to any tapirs to be in such danger. Personally, I'm not all that happy with tomcat pee, but that's probably just my past experiences coloring what might otherwise be a fine beer.

#156 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2008, 10:20 PM:

I was in a supermarket this evening. They have Chimay Blue - for a price I can only describe as 'ouch'. They're closing out Peche Lambic and the beers from Franziskaner, so I may buy some this weekend.

#157 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2008, 01:25 AM:

Speaking of hops, my mother's parents lived in Walla Walla, Washington, which is near hop production land. My folks were fervent fundamentalists so whenever we drove by and I'd take a deep breath (the smell of hops plants is good), they'd scold me because it was as bad as :::gasp::: drinking alcohol!

#158 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2008, 09:36 AM:

Ginger #155: I prefer a shandygaff of my own making, blending Red Stripe and Ting (a Jamaican grapefruit soda).

#159 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2008, 10:04 AM:

Fragano @ 158: I think I can get both of those items locally. I may have to try that.

#160 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2008, 11:50 AM:

I had a terribly good beer last night. Big Boss Brewing Co.'s "Hell's Belle," a Belgian-style ale. Big Boss is local to me.

Big Boss are terribly good brewers and I would like to add them to my recommendation of NC breweries. Try the Hell's Belle, the Belle Wringer, and the Surrender Monkey. I had Angry Angel (a Kolsch style ale) specifically recommended to me as well, but haven't tried it yet.

#161 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2008, 11:54 AM:

Fragano @ 158: I've had Ting; I used to buy cases of it. It was one of the best things about living in the Caribbean, and I can find it in our grocery stores. No one else will drink it, so I just make my shandy with the household lemonade or Sprite/other soda.

#162 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2008, 11:56 AM:

Rikibeth @ 135 and Clifton Royston @ 138, I considered it some yesterday, and came to the conclusion that a nice rich Mussamun Thai curry might be just the thing. Haven't tried it yet.

Indian curries generally seem to prefer something slightly sweet -- I drink Riesling with them, or stick to the rosewater lassi. Korma, that's an idea though, as it's a richer curry.

#163 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 08:52 PM:

Trip report:
Lindeman's Peche lambic: very much worth the price of admission ($9.50, closeout at local grocer).
Sweetish, hops not conspicuous, tastes very very good (and filling).
Came in a 750ml bottle with crown cap and cork, and a champagne-type base.
I'd suggest splitting it with with friends. Mind the dregs.

#164 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2008, 05:25 PM:

Rikibeth #159: Where do you live, if you don't mind my asking? (Or am I being particularly dense?)


Ginger #161: Ting is hard to find even in Atlanta, which has a substantial Jamaican community. I come across it occasionally, and when I do I buy it.

#165 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2008, 06:17 PM:

Fragano @ 164: West Hartford, CT. My route to the (Whole Foods) grocery store involves Trout Brook Drive, which is why the Trout Brook Ale question was easy for me; and there's a sizeable Carribean immigrant population in the area, so the OTHER grocery stores have Carribean import sections with all sorts of interesting stuff.

#166 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2008, 07:55 PM:

Rikibeth #165: Ah, that makes perfect sense.

#167 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2008, 10:46 PM:

Fragano @ 164: I didn't see a lot of Ting until more recently, but the local grocery has it regularly -- shall I put in an order for you? ;-)

The Washington DC area might just have a few folks from all across the Caribbean. I've been finding all sorts of "exotic" stuff, including the Caribbean favorite, this soup. When it first showed up on the shelves, people who were not familiar with Caribbean cuisine were somewhat..amused. Bemused. Something.

#168 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2008, 10:30 AM:

Ginger #167: Mmmm. It;s certainly astonished my wife (but is much too salty for me these days, alas), whenever I've purchased it. My favourite ex got me a packet for preparing mannish water from Jamaica last time she was down there (I haven't yet made it), also much to my wife's astonishment (and then I have to explain the rules of cricket...).

#169 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2008, 09:53 AM:

My favourite off-license recently got in a few boxes of Chimay Blue. I'm sitting here in heaven, after just half a (33cl) bottle. Wow. Good stuff. :)

#170 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 04:34 AM:

I don't think anyone's mentioned it yet, but Chimay Bleue and Chimay Grand Réserve are not the same brew despite the similar labels.
Most Belgian beer labels indicate the temperature at which the beer should be served, as well as the type of glass it should be served in (i.e. a tulip-shaped glass vs. a straight one) - something to do with releasing the aromas, just like wine. A lot of them have their own glasses, mostly for marketing purposes - the best example is Kwak, which has a very strange-looking glass associated with an apocryphal tale (look it up) although it is a darn fine beer.
A few brewers (like St. Feuillien) also make Christmas beers with a special brew every year. It's probably the closest these things come to vintages, because the brew itself changes from year to year, whereas the standard product is supposed to remain consistent.
I'm not too sure about the Chimay spiders-and-fruit-flies tale; the process sounds suspiciously like the spontaneous fermentation used to make lambic and gueuze beers. The stuff is left uncovered in an attic with open windows, so that the yeasts in the air can inoculate the liquid - hence the name spontaneouse fermentation. It only happens in a small area around Brussels. Timmerman's is one such brewer.
I LIKE living in Belgium!

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